A strange sickness is afflicting congressional Republicans.
Unwilling to team up with Democrats to replace sequestration with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, and unable to pass a cuts-only sequestration measure on their own, Republicans’ official position is that they’ve made their peace with enduring, across-the-board spending cuts in perpetuity.
But now that those cuts are creating real consequences, individual members are experiencing buyer’s remorse. The only problem is, until they change their underlying position on replacing sequestration, the only thing they can do about it is whine.
Call it sequestration NIMBYism.
“It seems difficult to say with a straight face that completely eliminating a source of revenue for the National Park Service is a smart, targeted cut,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), a member of GOP leadership.
Thune says he thinks the National Park Service made a political decision to close revenue-generating campgrounds, including at Wind Cave National Park in his home state, to make the cuts more visible to the public.
“Instead of cuts that reduce wasteful and duplicative spending, the administration’s politically calculated cuts are targeting facilities like the campground that actually serve as a revenue source for the park,” Thune added. “It appears NPS is just another agency following the White House’s lead in trying to find the cuts that can trigger a press release before looking to internal cost-saving measures that are less newsworthy.”
Sequestration is intended to be indiscriminate. It requires federal agencies to reduce spending by a certain percentage on each of their programs and activities.
That means all House and Senate members are likely to see some consequences in their districts and states. But when those consequences materialize, Republicans either blame the administration or plead for special treatment.
“Our military trains at Griffiss [International Airport],” said Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY). Griffiss is one of nearly 200 towers the FAA wants to close. “The airport offers some of the most unique infrastructure in the Northeastern United States. And during Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Sandy, it was Griffiss International Airport that served as a staging area for relief efforts. It is short-sighted and unnecessary to close this control tower. And I implore the FAA to remove it from the closure list.”
The Obama administration has taken note of these complaints. And while Republicans and the media in Washington limit their focus to the fact that the White House canceled public tours, the administration hopes the problems sequestration is causing back home will create pressure on the GOP to support a balanced tax increase and spending cut measure to replace it.
“[T]hey’re right,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily press briefing Thursday. “[T]here are real impacts out there. And it’s an unfortunate result of the arbitrary, across-the-board nature of the sequester cuts. That was the — I use this term facetiously — the genius in the design of the sequester — it was written in a way to make it terrible. That was the purpose. Republicans and Democrats alike wrote it that way so that it would be so onerous that it would compel Congress to take alternative action to reduce our deficit in a more responsible way. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. And unfortunately, Republicans in Congress made the choice not to postpone the implementation of the sequester.”
Until the GOP agrees to raise taxes, though, they’re stuck with the sequestration they have, not the spending cuts many of them claim to want.
“My bill will require the Office of Management and Budget to submit a plan to Congress that implements the President’s cuts without harming our civilian employee’s ability to keep pace with their demands and provide for their families,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX). “In the district I represent, the civilian employees of Corpus Christi Army Depot (CCAD) and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi (NASCC) could be furloughed for up to 22 days. Our local airport towers in Corpus Christi and Victoria might also face extreme cuts. Those reductions in force are unacceptable.”
And so it goes.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.